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Can Social Security Disability Be Garnished?

Last updated: November 18, 2023

Garnishment is a legal process where a portion of an individual's wages or other assets is withheld by a court order to pay off a debt. It is a way for a creditor to collect a debt from an individual who is not making payments.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are generally protected from garnishment by creditors. This means creditors cannot legally take money from your SSDI benefits to pay off a debt. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.

Can Social Security Disability be garnished? Let's explore the cases in this blog. 

Benefits And Garnishment 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits provide financial assistance to individuals unable to work due to a disability. The benefits are intended to help individuals with disabilities cover their basic living expenses and provide them with a source of income when they cannot work.

It's important to note that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are protected from garnishment, except for child support and alimony, federal taxes, and federal student loans. Mortgage, credit card debts and other types of loans are not allowed to be garnished from SSDI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Garnishment

When an individual is approved for SSDI, they will receive a monthly benefit based on their past earnings. The benefit amount is determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is based on the individual's average lifetime earnings and the number of years they have paid into the Social Security system.

The SSDI benefits can help individuals with disabilities cover expenses such as:

  • Housing and utilities
  • Food and clothing
  • Medical expenses, including prescription drugs
  • Transportation
  • Assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

However, these benefits are in danger if you have arrears in the past due to taxes, child support, federal student loans, and alimony. It can also be seized to pay for Court Ordered Victim's Restitution. 

More Protections For SSDI Recipients

To protect SSDI recipients from garnishment, several protections have been put in place:

  1. Federal law: The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limits the number of an individual's wages that can be garnished. For SSDI benefits, the CCPA sets the maximum amount that can be garnished at 15% of an individual's disposable income.
  2. Exemptions: Some states also have exemptions that protect SSDI benefits from garnishment. For example, some states exempt SSDI benefits from garnishment entirely, while others only allow garnishment for certain types of debt, such as child support and alimony.
  3. Direct deposit: A Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® or a bank account can be used to receive your benefits. This will make it harder for creditors to garnish their benefits.
  4. Social Security protection account: Some states allow you to deposit your SSDI benefits into a special account protected from garnishment, called a "Social Security Protection Account."

Find The Right Lawyer For Further Clarification

You can consult with a legal representative to better understand your rights and the legal process of garnishment. They can also help you file the necessary paperwork to claim exemptions and protect your benefits.

Are Your Social Security Benefits Safe From Creditors?

Generally, your Social Security benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are protected from garnishment by creditors. This means creditors cannot legally take money from your Social Security benefits to pay off a debt. 

What It Means to Be Judgment Proof

Being "judgment proof" means that a person is financially unable to pay off a debt; thus, a creditor cannot legally take any action to collect the debt. To be considered judgment-proof, an individual's assets must be less than the amount of the debt, and they must have no income or assets that can be garnished to pay off the debt. 

It's important to note that being judgment-proof is not a permanent status, as an individual's financial situation can change. Also, being judgment-proof does not wipe out the debt. It only means that the creditor can't legally take any actions to collect it, but they can still sue you and get a judgment. The debt will remain on your credit report, affecting your credit score and your ability to get loans or credit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions? Check out these answers to frequently asked questions. 

1. Can social security disability be garnished in a lawsuit?

Fortunately, you cannot have SSDI benefits garnished if you are sued. They can only be garnished for child and alimony support, federal taxes, student loans, and victim restitution. 

2. Can the IRS take your Social Security disability payback?

Unfortunately, the IRS can garnish your SSI benefits if you have unpaid taxes from the past. However, they can take up to 15 percent of your monthly Social Security benefit. 

3. How much can Social Security garnish for overpayment?

Social Security can garnish up to 15% of your disposable pay if there is an overpayment of SSI benefits. The SSA waives overpayments amounting to $50 or less but will collect any amount above that. They usually send a letter with instructions to repay the overpayment within 30 days. 

Social Security Disability benefits are usually safe from garnishment except in cases of arrears, disability taxes, student loans, child support, and alimony. If you're facing debtors from mortgage or credit cards, you can safely be assured they can't garnish your SSDI benefits. 

In our blog post, learn if you can have a savings account while on SSDI.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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